Monday, December 1, 2008

Homily for Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Is 11:1-10; Lk 10:21-24

It is right to speak of Advent ushering in something. It ushers in the Christmas season, of course. Yet Advent is a season in its own right. And even though the larger culture gives it short shrift if it recognizes Advent at all, we must not follow suit.

During Advent, we await the glorious coming of the Lord. As we do not know the exact day or hour of His coming, we must remain watchful and vigilant. For what should we be looking? Are there indicators to tip us off that the Parousia is at hand?

The prophet Isaiah uses some vivid images in today’s first reading, signaling how we will know the Messiah has arrived.

[T]he wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

The calf and the young lion shall browse together. . . .

The cow and the bear shall be neighbors.
(Is 11:6-7)
Animals which would normally be aggressive and predatory are now made pacific. Animals which are placid are found together with animals which are threatening. Enmity is gone; antagonism is dissipated. The messianic era is indubitably a period of peace.

In George Orwell’s short novel Animal Farm, he, too, writes of animals: pigs, dogs, horses, sheep, rats, hens, puppies, a bird and a goat. Animal Farm is a satiric fable in which the animals symbolize Bolshevik revolutionaries. After ousting the human owners of the farm, the animals set it up as a radically egalitarian commune. However, the new management proves no better than the old one. We might think of Animal Farm as a cautionary tale. The good society can never be constructed off of a utopian blueprint.

Advent is a season of hope. The problem is not in setting our sights too low; the real difficulty is that we haven’t set them high enough. Saint Paul instructs us that “[i]f for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” (1 Cor. 15:19)

Not pitiable, but blessed indeed are we. We are blessed in that our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 3:20)

In today’s gospel, we eavesdrop on Jesus’ prayer to the Father Who is “Lord of heaven and earth.” (Lk 10:21) God’s realm is not just in heaven; it’s on earth, too. Having sent the seventy-two disciples on a mission, Jesus welcomes them back with these words: “[R]ejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:20)

Catholic political philosophy steers clear of both cynicism and naivete. It is realistic because its hope is solidly anchored in the pattern of promise and fulfillment. It is not based on wishful thinking or rosy forecasts. It reads human nature accurately: the disordered soul is not in need of a bailout. What it needs instead is to be restored to the image and likeness of Christ.

The mercy of Christ is promised to us in the Holy Eucharist. Here, the Lord makes good on His promise, too. Fulfillment is not found in more goods, but the good of reconciliation and peace. At last, a hope deep enough and profound enough that it really corresponds with our origin and our destiny.

Over the next four weeks, the Church’s liturgy points us in the direction of our life on high with Christ. Blessed will we be to see and hear. (cf. Lk 10:23-24) What we see and hear at the summit of our lives can be enacted socially only if we watch with the eyes of faith, and only if we listen with ears trained on the word of God.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Monsignor Robert J. Batule is a priest of the diocese of Rockville Centre.